Can Doing Nothing Kindle Creativity?

Can Doing Nothing Kindle Creativity?

Dr Sanyukta Kashalkar- Karve

26, December 2020

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” ~Lao Tzu

Recently I read an article written by a very good friend of mine, Dr Akanksha Jaiswal titled “The Importance of Doing Nothing” that was published in the Open Page segment of The Hindu Newspaper, Chennai. When I read it once, I smiled, congratulated her, and kept it aside just like reading any other article on my phone. I read it again and it made me think. So, thank you dear Akanksha that your small piece of thought made me think!

As a woman myself, I do have that great quality to juggle things and multitask every single day. Getting up early in the morning, welcoming the morning sun, cutting vegetables while concurrently sipping a cup of tea, with a four-burner stove keeping all the burners burning together, think of an interesting breakfast that would kick start the day, take shower, and get ready for the University, do morning prayers, eat something, and reach on time. Heave a sigh of relief and start waving Hello! and responding to several Good mornings from colleagues!

This kind of routine has been there for many years, not just in Ujjain, but also during my stint in Mumbai. In fact, it had an additional touch of a daily to-and-fro travel of four hours in a local train. Cherry on cake! I remember my times on the local train in Mumbai. The everyday struggle to get a seat for the long journey, witnessing the wacky fights (which I later realised were basic conversations), to over-hearing the sad stories of so many women in the ladies’ coach, to women selling artificial jewellery, to so many more things happening around continuously. Just unstoppable. I learnt a lot from everything I observed. The women selling socks or jewellery, or table covers or bindis were all hard-working women. They were living a respectful life by working hard and making ends meet out of the money earned every single day. I saw them every day doing the same thing. Anyway, life is life! I felt why not make my local train journey into ‘me time’.

Being a creative person, my friends and relatives know very well, that if I am not working in the office, then I am doing or thinking about something or the other. For example, I am listening to music or singing, writing, reading, watching a movie for academic interest or sometimes for pure entertainment, going for a walk, gardening, or trying out new recipes. During my initial days in Mumbai when I was figuring out my existence and survival, adjusting to time, space, and behaviours, I did not know much and just worked on my PhD Coursework, Teaching and Research. Eventually, I realised that now I was a seasoned Mumbaikar (dealing with all sorts of things, that is what one starts believing), I asked myself how do I make good use of my almost four hours; for five days a week? I wanted to cut myself off from the quotidian of seeing slums, spinach, and fenugreek farms exactly next to the naalas, feeling the humidity and getting tired of sweating and pushing yourself every day to walk down Azad Maidan. By and large, I had enough reasons to be pensive and dejected. I started listening to music and doing more mental riyaaz. I also started reading second-hand books as they smelled old, yellow, and light. I did enjoy ‘me time’ and cut off myself from the hustle-bustle and jerks of the train journey mentally. But here is the point. Maybe, some of the train trips I should have just slept like other women did. They did not care about their purses or bags. They just slept and some of them even snored.

Calvin and Hobbes are one of the comic characters that I adore. One of the many strips goes like this on doing nothing: Calvin diligently studies his calendar. Hobbes stands beside Calvin, full of anticipation. Calvin says: “Well, let us check my calendar and see what our schedule is for today. Today says do nothing. So, does tomorrow and every day after…all the way through the end of August.”

Here is another one:

Honestly, that is exaggerated.

While writing all this, I am still figuring out why did I even chose this subject as my first article for Avantika University’s website blog, but I think this not just matters to me, but to anyone reading this, especially in the times of pandemic. Pandemic did bring with it some major lifestyle changes and most of us have adapted to it well. After all, we are Indians! We easily adjust with the systems, times, space, behaviours, and viruses too.  Being a faculty myself, who would take on a class alone of more than hundred upcoming designers and engineers of Avantika University, who liked to interact with them, give an ear to their problems, was suddenly alone in front of a camera and a screen and took a full semester gazing at it. In fact, I am proud of all the faculty members who not just learned and adapted the new techniques and technology in teaching but unlearned a lot simultaneously. I remember that while I was teaching a course called Critical and Creative Thinking to M. Des. students, emphasising on what helps in bringing up creative ideas, I shared with them many concepts but relevant to what this article is about were, ‘Find your Pencil’ and ‘Sit alone’. These are some of the concepts by choreographer and creative thinker Twyla Tharp. Tharp says to “find your pencil,” or the thing you create with, arguing that carrying around a pencil (or paintbrush, or camera, or whatever your tool may be) every day makes you ready to use it when the time comes. Carry yourself with a sense of openness to ideas, so that when you’re struck with inspiration (or called on to do a new project), you’re already warmed up to work.” She encourages solitude by saying, “Alone is a fact, a condition when no one else is around. Lonely is how you feel about that.” Let your mind wander, teasing thoughts from the subconscious.

This brings me to the end of my blog. Being a faculty myself and trying to balance out every day with professional and personal complications, it is a must for all of us, including students to rethink. Rather than having a robotic life, a life which is black and white, a life that switches on and off-- we need some shades of human, some hues of greys, some tinge of spark that fills our mind and body with some newness, laziness, and madness. So, try out ‘doing absolutely nothing’ in your ‘me time’ to come up with some happier skin and a clearer mind and approach to solve the jigsaw puzzle of an ordinary day.

Dr Sanyukta Kashalkar- Karve

Dr Sanyukta Kashalkar- Karve

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